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Doctoral Program in Leadership Studies

Program Goals and Components

Graduation from a doctoral program is not a sole function of successful completion of course work. Students must also pass their comprehensive exam after two years of study and successfully defend both their research proposal and their doctoral dissertation in order to obtain the doctoral degree. The Leadership Studies doctoral program has five basic goals which highlight the competencies that must be achieved and documented through the successful completion of five basic program components listed below.


  • GOAL 1: Candidates will demonstrate interdisciplinary knowledge required to lead a system toward transformational change in 21st-century organizations.
  • GOAL 2: Candidates will understand, implement, and evaluate research-based theories and models for developing leadership capacity.
  • GOAL 3: Candidates will analyze and evaluate professional development required to affect high achievement of all participants in the organization.
  • GOAL 4: Candidates will demonstrate dispositions necessary to create collaborative communities.
  • GOAL 5: Candidates will analyze and evaluate data for trends, problems, and implications in planning and implementation of programs.


  1. Interdisciplinary Foundations Core Courses In the first two years, students take a rigorous core curriculum that covers leadership theory; quantitative and qualitative research methods; management of complex organizations with attention to power, politics, culture, and influence; diversity and social justice; policy analysis and development; strategic resource allocation and development; program evaluation, and research proposal development. Transfer courses will typically not be accepted in this category. The ED 895 Dissertation Proposal course is a foundation core course that will be taken during the first semester of the third year.
  2. Supporting Area In the third year, in consultation with the student's academic advisor, students specialize in at least one supporting area of interest such as educational leadership, educational technology, business administration, higher education leadership, nonprofit administration, counseling, history, or another approved area. Many of the supporting area choices are available 100% online; however, there are face-to-face options. In some cases, the supporting area selection may also support add-ons to current professional licensure or certification. Previous graduate coursework, related to the leadership supporting areas, that has not been used as a part of another degree program, endorsement, or certification may also be considered for transfer credit (up to a maximum of 12 hours). 
  3. Internship Experience To apply academic learning and experiences outside of the college classroom, students will make arrangements (with their advisor's approval) to gain practical (and typically unpaid) leadership experience with an organization in alignment with their supporting area.  This experience will be designed for minimal conflict with a student's current work schedule. Transfer credit will typically not be accepted in this category.
  4. Evaluation of Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions for Leadership Students will be scheduled for written and oral examinations of their content learning. Examinations or major projects assigned at the end of each course during the first year have a dual purpose: (a) contribution to course grades as indicated in the course syllabi; and (b) indication of the potential for success in moving forward with the doctoral degree program. Students who perform poorly on one of these final course evaluations will be contacted by the program director to determine eligibility for continuing with the doctoral program, regardless of the grade obtained in the foundation course. During the third year, a comprehensive written and oral examination of the coursework from the first two years will be scheduled. Defense of the dissertation proposal is the oral portion of this comprehensive examination.  Failure to pass the comprehensive examination (both in written and oral formats) after eligible interventions will result in termination from the program. Successful completion of the comprehensive examination (written and oral formats) will qualify the student to begin enrollment in ED 899 Dissertation to conduct independent research guided by an appointed Dissertation Chair/advisor, and signals a change in a student's academic status from doctoral student to doctoral candidate.
  5. Leadership-Relevant Dissertation Candidates will engage in the rigorous investigation of original research regarding a problem area in organizational leadership. Although the research problem may be personally identified, advisor's approval and guidance, along with the support of a committee of LSUS graduate faculty and researchers are essential. A dissertation committee member outside of the LSUS faculty, who has expertise related to the dissertation topic, may be selected with program approval. In most cases students will begin dissertation preparation during the first year in the doctoral program and continue to build upon this research throughout the program--making changes as needed. Transfer credit will not be accepted in this category. The dissertation requirement is described in further detail on the Dissertation Page on this website and in the Leadership Studies Handbook, which includes a special section referred to as the Leadership Studies Dissertation Handbook.
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